Gwede Mantashe. Picture: AFP
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: AFP

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe says that any move by the government to procure additional energy generation will call for bids from all technologies simultaneously, not only from renewable energy producers.

SA has a four-year supply gap during which it will be unable to meet the demand for electricity, due specifically to Eskom’s poor plant performance. Unless additional energy is urgently procured and emergency measures are put in place, SA is certain to face years of rolling blackouts.

Mantashe, who alone holds the power to make a determination under the Electricity Regulation Act to procure more generation capacity, says he will not treat renewable energy generators differently from any other.

He has been urged by Business Unity SA (Busa) to launch a new round of procurement for renewable energy with urgency as wind and solar PV have the shortest construction times of all the options and could bring additional megawatts onto the grid within two years. However, renewable energy, which is provided by independent power producers and sold to Eskom, is politically controversial as trade unions and many in the ANC see it as a precursor to a privatised energy market.

Speaking to MPs in parliament’s mineral resources and energy committee on Tuesday, Mantashe said he was under pressure to open a new bid window under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme.

“We can’t deal with renewable energy producers as if they are an emergency [measure]. We should treat them as a technology and not an emergency. When we open applications for new generation everybody will be able to bid for that, including renewable producers,” he said.

Mantashe said that the government would now begin to consider 17 applications for distributed generation — or self-generation by businesses, mines and industries — now that the Independent Resource Plan (IRP) has been promulgated.

“I don’t want to be presumptuous that we will give a licence to everyone. Each application will be considered on its merits,” he said.

But he said that having only been in office for five months he would not be rushed.

“I cannot be expected to run around like a small baby,” he responded to persistent questioning by DA MP Kevin Mileham.

Responding to questions that the giant Inga hydro scheme was now in doubt as the Chinese and Spanish contractors were at odds over whether it would go ahead, Mantashe said that the department of energy officials were in China at present and he was confident that the project would go ahead.


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